The 61st Annual Dauphin Island Race is coming up April, 27, 2019. As area racers get their boats ready, the US coast Guard has just released its investigation report on the tragedy in 2015.
Six people died when severe thunderstorms swept across Mobile Bay during the race.
According to the report, there were many contributing factors listed as to what turned race day in April of 2015 into one of the worst sailing disasters in modern American history. Miscommunication between race officials caused the race to be postponed, initially. The later start put the majority of the regatta in the teeth of a violent storm as the racers closed in on Dauphin Island. In the Coast Guard report, three key factors were identified.
First was the environment, with winds in excess of 73 miles per hour, swells reaching eight to 10 feet in height and driving rain, making it difficult to see. Next was personnel. According to the report, race participants failed to monitor weather conditions and the race committee failed to notify the fleet of weather conditions and/or cancel race. Then, there was equipment. During its interviews, the Coast Guard found that many participants either didn’t wear or couldn’t access life jackets.
The Coast Guard has now made several recommendations to the US Sailing Association at sanctioned races, which includes requiring all crew members to wear life jackets while on deck, requiring the skipper to wear a portable VHF radio on a lanyard so emergency communications can easily be made and heard and requiring every boat to submit an accurate crew list 30 minutes before the race.
Also in its findings, the US Coast Guard found that its own personnel assigned to monitor and provide support for the race was not aware that they had the overriding authority to cancel the race due to severe weather conditions.
Since the 2015 tragedy, several wrongful death lawsuits have been filed against the Fairhope Yacht Club who sponsored the race that year. This year’s race is sponsored by the Mobile Yacht Club.